October 2002
Portfolio paradox

An increasing number of guest house owners and hotel managements are becoming disenchanted with the way Portfolio is treating them, and are voluntarily withdrawing their advertising from the three Portfolio publications, despite the great financial benefit which they have derived from Portfolio in the past. Many are questioning whether Portfolio's pay-off line "Benchmark of the Best" is still apt.

Portfolio's Retreats Collection lost 25 % of its 2001 advertisers in the current edition, while the newest Portfolio B & B Collection has lost 20 % of its 2002 advertisers. Major hotels such as the Cape Grace and Bay Hotel have also withdrawn their support from the Portfolio Country Places Collection.

Portfolio has been poor at building relationships with its advertisers, taking close to 20 % price increases year on year when the inflation rate was one quarter of this . Telephone messages left and e-mails sent to Portfolio by its advertisers go largely unanswered and are ignored.

Portfolio's relationship with its advertisers reached its lowest point in July 2001, when it created a new company, Portfolio Online (Pty) Limited, to take bookings from guest house guests, through its website, at a 10 % commission from its advertisers. The fact that the Portfolio Online website address is featured on every page in each one of the three Portfolio Guides incensed the Portfolio advertisers most, as this competed with their individual website addresses. Most advertiser feedback to Portfolio regarding problems with its Online system and suggestions for improvements have been disregarded over the past year.

An article in the August issue of NOSEWEEK questions the motives for Portfolio's decision to expel five guest house advertisers : Karrad Guest House in Hout Bay (presumably for winning a court case against Portfolio last year), Papyrus Lodge in Stellenbosch (presumably for spearheading a proposed interdict against the introduction of Portfolio Online, but never carried out) , and Whale Cottage Bakoven, Whale Cottage Camps Bay and Whale Cottage Hermanus (presumably for minutes referring to Portfolio sent to members of Camps Bay Accommodation, an accommodation network in Camps Bay). Requests for meetings to discuss the expulsions were not granted by Portfolio.

Portfolio owner Liz Westby-Nunn, previously Chairman of South African Tourism and still a Board member, has also just expelled Paul Duval, her partner in the Portfolio Online venture. Duval has indicated that he is proceeding with legal action against Portfolio.

Whale Cottages reach for the stars

Whale Cottage Bakoven and Whale Cottage Camps Bay have both been awarded a Superior four star grading from the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, the body administering the national quality assurance programme, which sets standards through a uniform grading system in the tourism industry in South Africa.

The grading was achieved prior to Whale Cottage Camps Bay undergoing a R 1 million enhancement programme, including the addition of a second swimming pool, airconditioners to its seafacing rooms, heated towel rails in all bathrooms, the construction of a new deck for its upstairs bedrooms and a decor make-over.

Whale Cottage Hermanus Main Road has been awarded three stars, while the brand new Whale Cottage Hermanus Westcliff Drive, which opened three weeks ago, has also achieved a four star Superior grading.

The new Whale Cottage Hermanus Westcliff Drive is on the peaceful coastline, halfway between the Old and New Harbour in Hermanus, and offers sea and whale B & B (breaching and blowing) views from three seafacing rooms, as well as from the terrace and garden.

The Tourism Grading Council has graded more than 1000 accommodation establishments in South Africa to date.

Whale of a Festival in Hermanus

The annual Whale Festival in Hermanus, which ended last weekend, has been a huge success, with more than 60 000 visitors. A wide variety of music, theatrical and sporting events entertained the crowds visiting the town in honour of its visiting whales. Hermanus is regarded internationally as offering the best land-based whale watching in the world.

Hermanus' fame has spread to Germany, after more than 300 German travel agents recently visited Hermanus and Gansbaai to experience whale watching first-hand.

South Africa child-friendly destination

An article in the latest edition of SUED-AFRIKA, a German tourist publication focussing on Southern Africa, praises the child friendliness of the tourism industry in South Africa, under the title "Welcome Babba !"

Freelance journalist Astrid Mohne and her photographer husband Gerard travelled to South Africa with their 6 month old baby Leon, and found restaurants, accommodation establishments and even car rental operators very child friendly, despite a general lack of nappy changing facilities in cloakrooms.

Belvidere Manor in Knysna, The Plettenberg Hotel in Plettenberg Bay and Whale Cottage Camps Bay were praised in the article for their positive attitude to the tourists of the future!

Cape Town a top creative city

The influential American publication NEWSWEEK has nominated Cape Town as one of the top eight cultural centres of the world, alongside Austin in Texas (music), Antwerp (fashion), Marseilles (rap music), Newcastle in the UK (culture and property development), Zhongguancun in China (hi-tech industry), Kabul in Afghanistan ("post-Taliban Paris") and Tijuana in Mexico (art and music).

In the article Cape Town is highly regarded for its film, advertising and fashion modelling industries, not only creatively but also for the value for money they afford.

Camps Bay building boom

Camps Bay's fame as the premier tourist destination in South Africa has led to a massive investment in tourism facilities in this Cape Town suburb, which boasts one of the Top 10 beaches of the world.

Not only are a number of houses being renovated for use as guest houses for the new season, but the Camps Bay promenade will also change its face as Camps Bay's only shopping centre undergoes a major addition, and some tenants refurbish their stores. Blues will be opening a delicatessen in the erstwhile CNA, while Pick 'n Pay has closed its store in Camps Bay until the end of October for renovation work, to allow for the re-opening of a world-class store catering for the needs of locals, as well as international visitors.

The Promenade Shopping Centre, in which Blues is housed, will see 2500 square meters of floor space added, going mainly to restaurants and estate agents. A new 180 underground car park will help to alleviate Camps Bay's current parking shortage, especially at night, as its more than 20 restaurants attract patrons from far and wide.

Whales left in peace

The whales returning to South Africa will have far more peace and quiet than in the past, thanks to the co-operation of the South African Navy, which has ordered a ban on noisy naval activities.

The South African Navy has agreed to stop shooting exercises and underwater explosions during the peak whale season, to allow the Southern Right whales visiting South Africa's coastal waters to calve and mate in peace between September and November. Ships nearing whales are also to be warned to change their course.

An American research study has found that boat-based whale watching tends to push whales to extinction, as they no longer are as capable of finding food by using underwater sound waves when the noise of boats distracts them. Boat traffic can reduce a whale's sonar efficiency by up to 95 %.

Even aircraft flying above whales have been found to distract whales, as their shadows terrify certain forms of marine life, including dolphins, seals and birds, according to Nan Rice, of the Dolphin Action and Protection Group.

Cape Town cruises cut

Cape Town will only welcome 22 cruise liners during the next season, compared to the previous season's record high of 42. The number of cruise liners planning to visit the Mother City is however double the number having visited Cape Town in the past.

Whilst recognising the economic benefits of the cruise liner industry, no tangible improvements have been made to the makeshift terminal in Cape Town harbour through which visiting guests disembark whilst visiting the city.

WhaleTales is a newsletter issued by the Whale Cottage Guest House Portfolio and is edited by Chris von Ulmenstein.
Christiane von Ulmenstein
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